My galpal, Aries Wench, and I wanted to celebrate a recent Friday in style with a gurlz waterfront lunch on the beach...but being more in the mood for white tablecloths and higher-end service than we were for wooden tables, anchors and plank floors, we found ourselves in a bit of a conundrum. I almost always enjoy Columbia and have dined at most of the locations across the state, but I always seem to forget about the one on Sand Key. Fortunately, my AARP brain fog momentarily lifted on this occasion and, after digging deeply into my memory banks, I knew I'd found our spot.
The Clearwater outpost offers the best of both worlds: typical Columbia decor (albeit a bit lighter and airier than some of the others, befitting its intracoastal location)...
...along with outdoor seating and sparkling, panoramic water views.
We got the party started with a requisite pitcher of Cava Sangria...a delightfully refreshing and sneakily deadly concoction of Spanish sparking wine, brandy, orange liqueur, simple syrup and citrus fruit juices. This is the decidedly preferred method of meeting our MDR for Vitamin C.
I tend to be a bit of a creature of habit when frequenting Columbia. I have my menu favorites and don't often veer from them. I've been addicted to empanadas de picadillo ever since I visited Argentina several years back (where I ordered them, literally, at EVERY place I dined). Columbia's version are as good as any I've ever tasted. Two hot and flaky pastry pockets were presented, liberally stuffed with a tantalizing combination of spicy beef, tomatoes, green olives, raisins, onions and garlic. Food doesn't really get any better than this as far as I'm concerned.
The Wench started with a cup of Cuban black bean soup. Dried beans are not super-high on my list of culinary faves, but the soup was quite nice. The beans were savory, nutty, nicely flavored with onion and served over white rice. This was one savory concoction which decidedly belied its vegan status.
We both zeroed in on the $9.95 half Cuban sandwich and half order of Columbia's famous (and not without warrant) 1905 Salad. The perfect lunch for a hot June day in Florida, all of the components were of the quality I've come to expect from Columbia. If I had a single suggestion to make, it would be that serving the tableside-tossed salad (resplendent with crispy greens, olive, ham, Swiss cheese, grated Romano and garlicky vinaigrette) on the same hot plate that the sandwich was presented on was not conducive to helping it retain either its "crunch" or "chill" factors.
We ate and drank with a vengeance over the course of our 2-1/2 hour lunch and received very nice service from Edgar. The bill came to right at $100 before tip for two pitchers of cava sangria, everything pictured above, plus a cup of Spanish bean soup and an order of Canellonni de Langosta "7 Portes" (seafood cannelloni smothered in a lobster sherry Mornay cream sauce) for the hubster's dinner. You didn't think I was going to try to cook after all that sangria, did you? A girl could burn the house down.
Good times, as always!
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.